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How To Get A Photo Pass for Concerts

Published by Diana Tula · June 5th 2013

We love guest blog posts! Today’s awesome article on how to get a photo pass for concerts is by Brad Moore. Brad is a brilliant concert and entertainment photographer from Tampa, USA and we love his work. Do you want to write a guest post for our blog? Get in touch!

Introduction

How to get a photo pass for concerts? This is the question I get asked most often, and it was a question I myself asked a just few years ago. Once I had the answer, I had a front row seat to just about any concert I wanted to see.

Here is the key… You've gotta be shooting for someone. That someone could be a newspaper, magazine, website, the venue, the artist, the promoter, a radio station, an instrument company, and the list goes on. But that's going to be the first question you get asked when you request a photo pass. Who are you shooting for?

Start shooting concert photos

Of course, no one is going to let you shoot for them unless you're a decent photographer. So, if you haven't shot any concerts before, you've gotta start out shooting where access is easy to get. Smaller venues may not have restrictions on cameras like the big venues do. I know of at least two venues where I shoot in the Tampa Bay area that get great shows and, once you're in the door, they could care less if you have a big camera or how much you shoot.

If you don't have a venue that fits that description in your town, chances are you have a bar nearby that has local acts or open mic nights. Go check it out for a night or two, then introduce yourself to the acts, and ask if they'd mind if you took some pictures the next time they play. Chances are they'll say yes, and you've got your foot in the door. Alan Hess, who helped me figure all this concert photography stuff out, told me about a woman in one of his classes who started off by doing exactly this and has since become a local legend. She's even earned the respect of the local lighting directors, who make sure she has great light when she's shooting!

Try alternative venues

Another great place to get access is churches that host concerts. Not only is access generally easier to get, you'd be surprised at the lighting setups some churches have these days! The church I was attending when I first started shooting concerts had a decent show come through that I shot. I got some photos I liked, then used those to get access to a bigger show at a bigger church. After that, I was able to get a pass for a huge tour that plays at the biggest venues across the country.

Contact media

Once you have a decent portfolio built up (say 10-20 of your best photos), find a local media outlet to contact and ask if they could use someone like yourself to cover local concerts. Send them a link to your website [Yes, your website… Not your Facebook or Flickr page. Maybe this is a good place to mention that 500px has beautiful new Portfolios that make for great websites?] so they can see your work. In my case, I was able to start shooting for a local website that covered the Tampa music scene, and that allowed me access to shoot everyone from artists in small, sweaty clubs to Santana at the biggest outdoor venue in Tampa.

If you can't find a media outlet to shoot for, things are going to be a bit more difficult for you. But, don't lose hope yet! Go back up to the list at the beginning of this post and start contacting the other people in it. Just ask yourself, "Who needs pictures of this show?" and start reaching out to them. Eventually you're going to find someone who says yes. Well, if you're a good enough photographer, that is. But chances are if you're here on 500px, you're at least halfway decent ;-)

Get that photo pass

Who exactly do you contact to ask for a photo pass, and how do you find their contact info? Nine times out of ten your best bet is the artist's publicist or manager. Finding this info can be as simple as going to the artist's website and finding their contact page, or as difficult as using Google to try and track them down like a private eye. If the info isn't on their website, my next stop is the About section of their Facebook page. If it's not there, then I turn to Google and search "(Artist Name) Publicist" or "(Artist Name) Manager" and see what I can find. There are also a handful of publicity and management companies like Nasty Little Man, Big Hassle, Sacks & Co., and others that have sizable rosters, so I'll check those. Still no luck? Try their record label. Also, sometimes a phone call can prove more fruitful than an email.

And sometimes there's just no tracking these people down. That's when you put your request in the (in my experience) trustworthy hands of the venue's PR person. Someone at the venue has to be talking to the artist's people, right? Figure out who that venue's person is and get in touch with them. They're normally used to handling these requests since they have to have a list of approved photographers anyway. Once you figure out who this person is at each venue, it's good practice to copy them on future requests when you send it to the artist's publicist/manager so they're aware of it.

Big shows VS Small shows

Now, the tradeoff of shooting small shows and big shows is this… Smaller shows are easier to get access to, and normally have fewer restrictions on how much you can shoot. They also have crappy lighting setups (not always, but most of the time). And they probably don't have a photo pit separating the stage from the crowd, so you have to get there early to secure a spot up front and be prepared to stay there all night (make a quick restroom pit stop as soon as you get inside, then plant yourself up front).

As you start working your way up to bigger shows, the bad things about smaller shows become better, and the good things about them become worse. Better lighting and decent photo pits, but it's more difficult to get photo passes and you're restricted to the first three songs (or less in some cases). You also may not get to stay for the show unless you have a ticket, so you're escorted into the photo pit for the allotted shooting time, then escorted out when that time is up.

Recap

To recap, here are the three keys to obtaining a concert photo pass:

1) Be a good photographer. Start off by honing your skills at smaller shows and work your way up the chain by shooting slightly bigger shows till you're shooting the biggest shows in town.

2) You have to ask for a pass. Know all the people who hold the keys to the access you want and find out how to get in touch with them. Go through that list until someone says yes.

3) I haven't actually mentioned this one yet, but it's just a rule in life that also applies here… Be nice. When you're dealing with any of these people, be courteous and professional. If they tell you no (which they will sometimes), don't get grumpy. Thank them and go to the next person on your list. It even applies when you're shooting. The people you're standing in front of paid for a ticket to see their favorite band and have been waiting months to be standing where they are. Don't deprive them of a great show by getting in their way. There have been times where I've been shooting in a no photo pit situation and there's only one person between me and the stage. If I have a big smile and ask them to switch places for just one song, most of the time they're okay with it. If not, I ask for 30 seconds and they usually say yes to that. So, all of that to say, just don't be a jerk and people are usually willing to help you out.

Hopefully this is helpful information, but if you have questions just leave a comment and I'll answer as soon as I can! Too check out more of my work visit my website, 500px page or add me on twitter @bmoorevisuals.

This is our third installment of guest blog posts in collaboration with the awesome Kelby Media Group & Kelby Training. If you’d like to read previous posts visit Listen to the inner voice by RC Concepcion and Tutorial: Long exposure photography by Matt Kloskowski.

Thanks!
     

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justingillphoto
Justin Gill  about 1 year ago
Nice article, great photos!

I wrote a similar post a few years ago on my blog: http://www.justingillphoto.com/blog/how-to-get-concert-photo-pass

A lot of the same bullet points covered here, but perhaps there's some additional insight :)

detula
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Diana Tula  about 1 year ago
Thanks Justin for sharing! This is awesome :)

If you ever get an inkling to write a guest blog post for the 500px Blog let's get in touch! Email me blog@500px.com :D

KerriWillerford
Kerri Willerford  over 1 year ago
Well, I just shot my first show! It was a small venue, with some local and a couple well known bands. My main reason was for one of the bands, they are a young start-up group, I've known the lead since he was a kid. It was a challenge, but it all worked out. Photos go to print in a week! Thanks again for the article, and all the good info. My advise, get in the venue as early as you can, to scope it out. I did and it paid off, met people, and got some pre-show shots, everyone loves to see behind the scenes shots. Good luck to the rest of you, I might just do this again, but next time I'll try for some music I enjoy, this girl is getting too old for punk!
SamirDallali
Samir Dallali  over 1 year ago
thanx this is going to help me out a lot i have to get better first but luckely i can shoot at a venue in my town .
KerriWillerford
Kerri Willerford  over 1 year ago
This must be fate or something, Brad, this is the 3rd or 4th article I have received in the past 2 wks. regarding concert shoots! The fate part, I have a friend doing a gig in my area, small venue, and I offered to shoot it for the local rag (he grew up here and the rag loves this kind of stuff). So I have my pass and am going to shoot my first concert!!! I am not even doing this to promote myself, it's all about promoting this start-up band. I am a bit nervous, but after reading all this wonderful info I think I can do it. Wish me luck! Thanks Brad and everyone here for all the tips, I will use them.
VitalySavi
Vitaly S.  over 1 year ago
Nice!)
Caupho
Elena Dzhemisyuk  over 1 year ago
Thank you very much for article, Brad, it has really useful info even for those, who already made their step into live shooting activity.
The only thing I would like to add to your words is following:
Be nice not only to people who is giving you press passes, and public at the venue. Be nice to those who is working with you side-by-side in the photo pit. I personally have an experience in my past, when magazine and webpages publishers called to me and asked me to cover some lives. When I asked where did they get my number, the answer was: other photographer gave it to me. That photographer - I was nice to the other day, and he just remembered me. And gave publisher a reference when he himself couldn't do the work. So... speak with other photographers in photo pit, it could give you profit in a future as well. ^^
dloya
Duane S. Loya  over 1 year ago
I live in the USA Ohio, and have used all the techniques in this article with a ton of success and have been to the largest concerts in the area I live in. From Blossom Music Center to downtown Cleveland Quicken Loan Arena and even out of state to Michigan. Some groups I have photographed are .38 Special, peter gabriel, Slip Knot, Slayer, Motorhead, Red wanting Blue and many others. Not every concert has a pass available so you need to do your homework ahead of time. I haven't had any problems using the same techniques that are in this article to see whatever I want and get great professional photographs. Great article!
dloya
Duane S. Loya  over 1 year ago
Comment hidden
prajesh303
Prajesh Majumdar  over 1 year ago
Thank you Brad, excellent information ... proovs that, 1st - You are very Experienced, 2nd - You are quite Down to Earth. I Like All ...
MTImages
Mark Turner  over 1 year ago
Good info, cheers.
Always good to play nice with the security dudes as well. Make them your best friends. :)
mrleclerc12
Marty Leclerc (inactive)  over 1 year ago
Thank you so much for this very cool and good info Brad .....your shots are awesome by the way ...

Funny last year I was told to leave my camera gear with security till the end of the Dylan concert ...they said no photos allowed .... i argued a little but to no avail ... went and watched the show .... and the 10.000 people shooting with their phones ...lol...lol... ugh ... I mentioned that to them afterwards when picking up my cameras ...they said ...well we can't control that ...and they aren't professional so they probably wont be trying to sell any .... hummm... okay to that ....as if...

animisiewaz
Zbigniew Janik  over 1 year ago
If someone of you want to start with a photo pass, this link could help http://camerapixo.com/press-id.html
By the way it is good e-magazine ;-)
GustiSuarsana
Gusti Suarsana  over 1 year ago
lovely .. up
MattLane
Matt Lane  over 1 year ago
Very good advice!
flexeflix
Jason Grant  over 1 year ago
Nice write up.
Paul_E_Hurst
Big - Sky - Landscapes  over 1 year ago
Great info Brad, I live in the UK and have been shooting the smaller concerts in my hometown for the last year and a half.. I now want to move to the bigger venues and celebrities. Your information has given me the confidence to start approaching the promoters agents bands to get a pass and experience the 'pit' first hand. I have tickets for the up coming Black Sabbath concert in December, i'm gonna jump in at the deep end and go for that pass......wish me luck!
pauldangerkile
Awesome Account
Paul Danger Kile  over 1 year ago
For those of us that want to photograph motorsport. The advice is very similar.

Your local track is often an easy place to get into; they are there for the local community which includes racers, and photographers.

Then you can send examples of your work to the racing clubs. Here's an example of Gron4 Photography's work on CCS/ASRA's (one of the largest motorcycle racing organization in the US) website: http://www.ccsracing.us/gallery/html/bhmay12.html

That's a step to becoming a pro, but it's very difficult to sell photos, unless you are have a relationship with a professional race team, or a magazine. Racers go broke buying tires and fuel. Many of them can't afford a hotel, and end up sleeping at the track. These folks won't-or-can't pay for photos, but you can market yourself to someone that can. To-be-sure, I will never get that far, but that's another story...

Deborah
Deborah Flowers  over 1 year ago
Great and informative information Brad. Thank you so much for sharing. I definitely have an interest in photographing concerts and other music venues. I've done a couple of "bar shoots" where my nephew (the family "Rockstar") has played. Every other place I've tried to shoot has shot me down. I didn't have a clue.
Now I do, so a big Thank You for this.
I got some pretty decent shot of Brian Setzer when he played a small local venue, but unfortunately they were all from my seat in the 19th row. I asked and since I had "interchangeable lenses", I couldn't shoot from the front... If I'd had an iphone, it would've been a go... isn't that strange.
Great work Brad. Thanks.
pauldangerkile
Awesome Account
Paul Danger Kile  over 1 year ago
I don't ask. Really. I just bring stuff into the bar, and take photos. (My spouse's son is our family rockstar.)

I am pretty sure that I would have been shot down every time too, if I asked for permission, but I don't. The employees are taking a big risk saying, "yes", when few bars actually have policies that would make that decision easy for them. So they say, "No".

One night I even brought in a bunch of video equipment, and setup a tripod on a table in the middle of an establishment, and filmed the entire evening.

Well, now that I admitted to all of that, I am sure that fate will turn on me!

cjboffoli
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Christopher Boffoli  over 1 year ago
Essential piece of gear you shouldn't forget for this kind of work: a good pair of earplugs.
vbailly
Vincent Bailly  over 1 year ago
And what we can do against the concurrence of the unpayed amateur photographer ? Some are really good and make concert photography for fun then the pro^s loose their job... ?
pauldangerkile
Awesome Account
Paul Danger Kile  over 1 year ago
I don't have the time-or-resources to become a professional, and I don't want to step on the toes of those that are professionals. So I only let watermarked low-res photos into the wild as a form of promotion, and customers need to pay for high quality prints. 500px, RedBubble, and similar sites do the printing work for you. How much do I make that way? $0.00 so far, but I can talk to pros without the gloves-coming-off, because I am not taking away their work.
HelenBradleyOwers
Helen Bradley Owers  over 1 year ago
This is a really good article. My tip would be say 'Hi' to the lighting and sound guys when you do the bigger gigs, I take their pics too. I facebook friend them and tag them. I've made some really good crew friends this way and they rotate the circuit. Ultimately it is the Tour Manager who issues photo passes, not PR. I have several Tour Manager friends who ring me and tell me they've put me on the door, I don't even ask (I'm not talking small bands here either) I quite often I get triple AAA too. And like the lady in the article I work with small local venues, again I tag them on FB, they know me now and quite often let me in because they know I'll promote them too.
elizabethgrace1318
Elizabeth Williams  over 1 year ago
Great advice and loving the picture of Skillet
CliveRowlandPhotography
Clive Rowland  over 1 year ago
Another tip for this sort of thing is to try festivals, they usually have much larger numbers of photographers, generally its easier to blag and you have much more chance of fast tracking yourself to a good portfolio of gig shots. Of course, you will may have to camp and generally experience a festival, which isn't for everyone.
Porsupah
Porsupah Ree  over 1 year ago
I only come across concert photography opportunities very occasionally, but when I do, there's no question - it's a *load* of fun trying to capture the energy and spirit of the moment. Reading this reminds me it's something I ought to strive for more often!
dmacaulay75
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Donald Macaulay  over 1 year ago
Great post Brad...and loving your shots.
SherryBoylan
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Sherry Boylan  over 1 year ago
The live link to my website made my day Brad, thank you. This blog post will be very helpful to many.
jontomphoto
Jonathan Tom  over 1 year ago
Great post Brad, I'm excited to see more of your work!
design8r
KOS TAS  over 1 year ago
Great and useful post, thank you!! I remember getting photo passes in Paris was never easy, but at the end of the day it was excellent fun and very much worth it...watch out for the stagedivers!!
bmoorevisuals
Brad Moore  over 1 year ago
Thanks for the mind words everyone! Glad you found the post helpful, and thanks for the additional advice some of you gave as well. Really appreciate it, and thanks to 500px for the opportunity to post here!
hitmark
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Mark  over 1 year ago
Great post! Thanks.
monkeystereo
Simon Marrow  over 1 year ago
I recently toured with two Australian rock bands around Germany for about 12 days. I got this by simply contacting independent musicians who I really liked but I thought were also good people. I then made sureI followed their work and did an occasional shoot with then.
Interestingly enough my best shots did not come from the bigger, sleaker and better lit venues, but the dirtier grungier dive bars full of oldies. We contacts local photographers as we went and made some great contacts.
This was a fantastic and intimate way to shoot plus I travelled almost for free!
Razz2
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Steve Brazill  over 1 year ago
Great post Brad! In my experience, in addition to the artist or venue publicists and management, the promoter can also help. I routinely get my passes through a Live Nation rep, and they are often the ones escorting photographers to the pit. That give a great opportunity to meet them to say hi and thanks.
tbottchen
Tim Bottchen  over 1 year ago
Nice post Brad - great shots too!
On the technical side, don't be afraid to crank up the ISO and use fast glass. You will need this combo in low light.
TimBugbee
Tim Bugbee  over 1 year ago
good info...i'll add a couple of comments. An additional downside to the bigger shows is restrictions or even out-right appropriation of your images. Feel free to turn down these so-called 'rights grabber' releases if the publicist or management doesn't amend it to your satisfaction.

Another skill that can aid in getting photo passes is the ability to write a concert review (or better yet, do an interview with the band and get some off-stage photos as well).

Lastly, always send a followup email to whomever approved you for the photo pass, with a link to the photos if they are on-line.

kuja
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Kurt Jacobs  over 1 year ago
Great post, Brad! Another good tip is...reading the 'bible': All Access, Your backstage pass to concert photography by Alan Hess, got some very useful info on how to get a pass, do's and don'ts once you're in, ...
Jori_VdV
Jori Van de Vyver  over 1 year ago
Lovely post, thank u very much!
DavidPolin
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David Polin  over 1 year ago
A really nice and useful post! I'm just starting but I will take all of this advices for sure. Lots of thanks.
chbuhl
Christian Buhl Sørensen  over 1 year ago
The guest blogs are absolutely fantastic. So much effort and experience, in such short posts! I'm impressed. And a great hand of applause for Brad. Those photos are a treat!

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